Saturday, January 22, 2011

Family Conversation About Spelling

My husband came downstairs to get himself lunch which interrupted our homeschool lessons. My older son, a visual-spatial learner, had just finished his spelling pre-test for the spelling curriculum we use, Spelling Power. I am thrilled to see something has clicked and he is flying through spelling now. I praised him for his perfect scores. That prompted my husband to make a comment about how he hated spelling.

Lots of people acknowledge that people seem to either be natural spellers or struggling spellers. I asked my husband which he was. He said he hated spelling in school and was always a struggling speller. Something must have clicked for him as he is a good speller as an adult.

He asked which I was and I said I was a natural speller. My older son (the visual-spatial learner) has a photographic memory and he knows that term. That son asked if I had a photographic memory and is that why I can spell easily?

Before I could answer my husband asked what kind of a speller our younger son was and I said he is a natural speller. I explained that even when he makes a (rare) spelling error all I do is show him the right spelling and usually he makes the correction in his mind and he's done.

I then said that our younger son is like me in that we see the word spelled the right way then we 'make a picture of it' in our minds. My older son was intrigued by this and said, "You mean you can see the word spelled out?"

I responded, "Yes. I see the letters spelled out floating in the air. I can bring up this "picture" whenever I want."

He, the visual-spatial learner was miffed. I asked, "You have a photographic memory but you don't do that?"

He responded, "No. My photographic memory is for images and objects, not words. I don't see the words, even if I try."

My younger son, the very left-brained learner commented that he also sees the word written out in letters and that he can recall this 'image' in order to remember how to spell a word.


I have shared in the past how we tried a right-brained (visual spatial) spelling learning technique in which we imposed an image of a thing right on top of the spelled out word, and also putting the error part of the word in colored letters with the mastered part of the word in black. That worked but it is labor intenstive for me, taking up to 30 minutes a day, every day, of my time to dream up those images and create the large (8.5" x 11") flashcard.

At present we continue to use a method taught to me by my son's behavioral optometrist in which we toss a Koosh ball back and forth. We spell the word going forward, then backward, then forward. If an error is made by either of us we must start back at the start of that cycle.

There seems to be something about a visual-spatial learner looking at the word as an image which can be recalled back in order to spell it backwards. It is said that visual-spatial learners find it easy to spell words backwards while left brainers hate this and struggle (and I know I do).

Once they master spelling it backwards it somehow cements in their mind.

Lastly the throwing thing, I was told, fires off a certain area of the brain in charge of catching, at the same time as another part of the brain is firing off to recall the spelling of the word. Something happens with the firing off of the neurons and the mind using two parts of the brain at once to help the learner move the information from working memory to longer term memory rather than have it delete out of their working memory never to be retained.

If you think this is sounds like a bunch of hooey, if you have a visual spatial learner who struggles to spell just give these techniques a try and see what happens. If it works, the reasoning behind really doesn't matter, if your goal is to help your child learn and master content.

Do what works. Period.


Also of importance for kids with learning disabilities or those who have limited stamina for school work is to choose teaching methods and curriculums that are efficient and not time-wasting or filled with stupid busywork.

To that end we continue to all love Spelling Power which has a pre-test. The student is tested on words sight unseen. Only the words they do NOT know are studied. Thus study time is not devoted to studying words already known.

We use the bare bones Spelling Power program and don't bother with the extra learning activities (fluff) that are in their 'activity task cards box' (sold separately).

(What you choose to use is your perogative. This is what works for us so I'm sharing that. Some people I know like the AVCO Sequential Spelling system which was created for dyslexic people, who happen to have a high incidence of the visual spatial learning style by the way. We found the Spelling Power worked so we never tried Sequential Spelling by AVCO.)


If this post was of use to you click on the label below this post for visual spatial learners or the label for teaching spelling to see what else I have blogged on this topic.


Holly said...

We started using AVKO this year for spelling. I'm amazed at how well it is working. DS also likes that there is no fluff and nonsense to it. I will have to try the backwards/forwards thing.

I "stumbled" upon a similar idea for multiplication tables and it seems to be helping (the backwards/forwards).

Joyful Learner said...

Fascinating! I'm very visual but was not a good speller. I think it was because I would read the whole word as a chunk and ignore the details. I see our daughter doing the same. We'll have to try the technique you've mentioned. Thanks!

Crimson Wife said...

My visio-spatial learner is doing very well with the All About Spelling program. He really likes spelling with the letter tiles and the explicit teaching of the rules is also very helpful for him.

christinethecurious said...

I used your idea about illustrating cards to help my youngest son learn his phonograms - for instance, we drew a panting dog on the letter h for the sound 'h, h, h,' I'm not doing SWR in such an orthodox way this year.

The oldest is sort of learning to use spell check while I have a year of getting the toddler potty trained and still get used to two schooling students at wildly different years. We'll have to get back to spelling and handwriting though; the SAT essay looms, and he can't use a computer for that.